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Jimmie Johnson has impressive Chase statistics. He won five straight championships in the Chase format, from 2006 to 2010, earning him the moniker “5-Time.” He is the only driver to have qualified for every Chase since the playoff-style format was implemented in 2003. Last year, he was able to finish sixth in points, even with three races where he wound up worse than 25th.
Johnson’s average finish in the five races leading up to the Chase in his championship years was 13.7. In 2011, the first year he did not win a championship since 2006, his average finish in those five races was 9.8, his second-best since 2007. This year, his average finish is 15.8 after winding up 13th at Richmond, which is better than his average finish in the five pre-Chase races in 2010.
In short, Johnson and team are in good shape to start the Chase. The biggest factor leading to his most dominant championships is the number of races he won in those Chases. Winning is what the driver and team of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet will be focused on starting in Chicago.
Johnson has at least one win in each of the 9 Chases. Some of his best tracks in the Chase have been Dover (3 Chase wins – 2005, 2009, 2010), Charlotte (3 Chase wins – 2004, 2005, 2009), Martinsville (4 Chase wins – 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008), and Phoenix (3 Chase wins – 2007, 2008, 2009).
While a win at Richmond would have been helpful for the extra bonus points, Johnson will enter the Chase as the number two seed, only three points behind leader Denny Hamlin. Ultimately, the Chase for Johnson will be a matter of capitalizing on his best tracks, racking up wins, and avoiding any major on-track or mechanical issues. One thing is certain: Team Lowe’s Racing knows how to win championships and crew chief Chad Knaus will make sure they use this knowledge to their benefit starting in Chicago.